NY officials warn ‘the worst’ has yet to come as city and state scramble to contain coronavirus

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NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio warned Tuesday that New York has likely only seen the tip of the coronavirus iceberg, even as the state’s death toll topped 1,500 and city hospitals scrambled to make room for thousands of new COVID-19 patients.

In his daily briefing from Albany, Cuomo reported there are now more than 75,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in New York, accounting for nearly half of all infections in the U.S. At least 1,550 New Yorkers have died and nearly 11,000 are hospitalized, Cuomo said in the morning briefing, though the devastating numbers keep rising by the hour.

“We’re still going up the mountain,” the governor said. “The main battle is on the top of the mountain at the apex. That’s what we are planning for now.”

De Blasio said that apex may not be reached for another month.

“We have to look at this pattern and conclude that the worst is certainly in the next few weeks at a minimum. I could see it going into May,” the mayor said in an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show.

In an alarming national development, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus climbed past 3,600 on Tuesday, eclipsing the official count in China, where the virus originated last year. The White House warned that 100,000 U.S. deaths are likely.

In total, more than 180,000 infections have been reported in the U.S. so far, more than any other country.

The Big Apple is the worst-hit area in the U.S. and bears the brunt of New York’s burden, with at least 40,900 confirmed cases as of Tuesday morning, according to Health Department data.

Nearly two-thirds of New York’s COVID-19 deaths — 932 as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday — have occurred in the five boroughs.

A heart-crushing 332 New Yorkers died between Monday and Tuesday morning, averaging nearly 14 deaths every hour, according to officials.

As the devastating numbers piled up, city, state and federal officials teamed up to tackle the pandemic head-on.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and City Hall announced a partnership securing 250 more ambulances for NYC. About 75 of the ambulances will be used to respond to regular 911 calls and the rest will be set aside to transport patients to medical sites, such as the recently completed 1,000-bed field hospital at Javits Center and the U.S. Navy’s newly arrived 1,000-bed USNS Comfort hospital ship.

In addition, 500 backup EMTs and paramedics will come to the city under the deal to assist medical personnel stretched thin because of the pandemic.

“I promised them help was on the way,” de Blasio said, “and today it is.”

In another bid to relieve pressure on NYC’s overwhelmed healthcare system, the city confirmed it is transforming the U.S. Open tennis complex in Queens’ Flushing Meadows-Corona Park into a 350-bed field hospital.

Like the USNS Comfort, the Queens field facility is expected to accommodate noncoronavirus patients in order to allow city hospitals to focus mainly on fighting the virus.

With the number of cases growing by the day, de Blasio also said the city is planning to rent hotel rooms en masse and transform them into nonintensive care units for COVID-19 patients. In some cases, de Blasio said, the city may lease “entire hotels.”

The mayor said he discussed the plans with officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “They have really simple things they do to flip a switch basically, and turn a hotel into a hospital,” de Blasio said on NY1.

Cuomo — whose own brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, confirmed Tuesday that he has coronavirus — praised healthcare workers for staying on the “frontline of this battle.”

But the governor said there’s a second front to keep in mind as well.

“Social responsibility: Don’t be a burden on everyone else,” he said, urging New Yorkers to continue staying at home as much as they can to slow the spread. “It’s not just about you and your health. Everyone is subject to this virus. It’s the great equalizer.”

City agencies have at times struggled to keep New Yorkers from congregating in groups.

In response, City Hall said Tuesday it is closing down 10 playgrounds in all five boroughs where people consistently ignored social distancing recommendations.

A suspension of alternate side parking rules was also extended until at least April 14.

While New York is suffering the worst blow from the pandemic now, health experts are warning that other cities and states will likely face the same dilemma as the virus continues to spread.

Cuomo has scorched President Trump’s administration for not providing New York with enough ventilators and other sorely-needed medical supplies.

But on Tuesday, the governor stayed clear of taking political shots and instead urged federal agencies and other states to stand with New York in its hour of need.

“There are no red states or blue states,” Cuomo said in Albany. “The virus does not attack and kill red Americans or blue Americans — it attacks all Americans.”


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